Review: Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé

Summer is the traditional season for Rosé wine. There is a movement afoot to encourage wine lovers to enjoy Rosé all year, and I’m all on board. I do enjoy Rosé wine year around. Nevertheless, lighter bodied, crisp wines taste best to me (any many others) when the weather is warmer. Poolside, lakeside, or parkside, a refreshing Rosé is a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon.

Rosé wine comes to the plate with two strikes against it. First of all, many people I know still think all Rosé wine is like the syrupy sweet White Zinfandel popular in the 80’s and 90’s. This is simply not true. The reality is that a good many of the Rosé wines available today are crafted in the classic, Provençal style: dry, crisp, and refreshing. Still, some simply aren’t willing to give dry Rosé a try. I say their loss is my gain: more for me!

Strike two is that there are a lot of low quality Rosé wines out there, lacking in flavor, interest, or character. I suppose this is to be expected when a product suddenly becomes as popular as Rosé has in recent years. Everybody wants a piece of the action; to ride the wave while it is high. So they’ll rush to put something, anything out there to enter the market before the tide turns. (I’m detecting a surf theme here. Appropriate, given that Rosé is a great beach wine!)

Fortunately, there are also many excellent Rosé wines available! I found one of them recently at my local Total Wine & More store. Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé (Retail: $11.99) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. As one might expect from the use of these two big, bold red grapes, this Rosé has a bit more body and heft than most. Make no mistake, though; this is still a dry, crisp, refreshing wine!

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Founded in 1820, Château Bélingard is located in Southwest France, in the Bergerac appellation, east of the more famous Bordeaux region. While Bergerac wines are made predominantly with the same varietals as those of Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based red wines, and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon based whites – Bergerac wines are often considered softer and less serious. I don’t take this as a criticism in any way! On the contrary, these are high quality, value wines! Not everyone is a collector or connoisseur, and there is definitely a need for affordable, easy-drinking, everyday wines.

In addition to this Rosé, Château Bélingard produces an impressive portfolio of reds and whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, and several levels of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends. Below is my review of the Rosé, which we recently enjoyed as a cool refresher on a 102°F Sunday evening.

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IMG_2342Salmon, almost orange color. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit including mango and passion fruit, with a hint of mandarin, along with light red berry flavors of strawberry and ripe raspberry. Dry with medium body and a soft, round mouthfeel and lively acidity make this a refreshing wine, yet big enough to pair with grilled tri-tip steaks or other summer BBQ fare.

We really enjoyed this wine! I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points).

Check your local retailer and seek out some of this amazing Rosé wine! You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day

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Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. I am fortunate, in that both of my parents are alive and healthy, in their early 80’s. What’s more, they live in a beautiful retirement apartment complex just a few minutes from my home. Over the years, we have not always lived so close; so many Mother’s Days were spent remotely. So I’m pleased to be able to celebrate this day over a meal and wine with both my mother and dad.

Contrary to popular belief, at least by me, Mother’s Day is not just another “Hallmark Holiday.” Indeed, the day we know today was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Hallmark wasn’t founded until two years later in 1910! In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration establishing Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May. Yet celebrations of motherhood date much further back than that. The ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. More modern Christian celebrations of “Mothering Sunday” eventually evolved into the holiday we enjoy today.

I like to refer to the community where my parents live as a “land-based cruise ship.” It’s pretty much all-inclusive, with three meals a day, housekeeping services, social activities, recreation, and a shuttle bus for day trips and running errands. In fact, the apartments themselves don’t even have kitchens! Management is always gracious and invites guests for special occasion meals. Mother’s Day is no exception! Lunch is the big meal of the day, and there is always a main entrée, as well as an alternate in case you don’t care for the main. Mind you, these are chef-prepared meals so they’re always enticing and tasty!

Today’s main entrée was marinated flank steak with hoisin sauce, with arepas and artichoke timbales. If you’re not feeling like beef, the alternate was crab cakes with papaya pepper puree and citrus dill aioli. When I come over for special meals, I always like to bring a bottle or two of wine to pair with the meal. After all, I am a wine guy, so my folks appreciate my recommendations! I went in assuming we would all want the flank steak, so I brought a Cabernet Franc; the Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016. However, it was possible that my mom would surprise me and order the crab cakes. Besides, this is Mother’s Day, so we have to have a Rosé, right? As you can see in the photo above, we had several Rosés to choose from. In keeping with the Cabernet Franc theme, we opted for the Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014, a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day! 

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OK, props to dad, too. Without him, she wouldn’t be my mother! 

As expected, the meal was delicious! We started with a salad of spring greens, micro greens, and Belgian endive with peach-basil vinaigrette. Although we all ordered the flank steak, we opened the Rosé for the salad course. It was an amazing pairing! When the main course arrived, we chugged the remaining Rosé in our glasses to make room for the red wine. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t realized until I got the bottle home that the Chinon was a 2016 vintage. The grapes in the bottle were on the vine only a few months ago! I needn’t have worried, though, as the pairing was heavenly! For dessert we enjoyed homemade tiramisu and sipped on the last of the Chinon. Yum!! It was a very pleasant and enjoyable way to celebrate the sacrifices my mother made in raising my sister and me. Mainly my sister. (Just kidding, sis!)

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The Wines

Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014

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​Salmon color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, red raspberry, and red currant. Bright acidity with medium body. Light and lively. Red berry, including cranberry on finish. Excellent pairing with the spring and micro greens salad with endive.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016

Yes, 2016. ​Very young, but very good! Bright purple color in the glass. Aromas and light mouthfeel are reminiscent of a Beaujolais Nouveau: Fresh raspberry, red currant, and violet, with some spice, and a bit of freshly tilled earth, with just a hint of oak influence. Surprisingly soft and smooth for such a young wine, with lively acidity and medium body. The acidity made it perfect with the flank steak, and led to a long, pleasing finish. Very good now, with aging potential for several years.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

My hope is that each of you enjoyed celebrating your mother as much as I did mine. Let me know in the comments what you did with your mom, and what wines you paired with it!

Cheers!

 

Review: Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014

There are five wine bars in my hometown of Folsom, California. Pretty impressive for a sleepy suburb outside of Sacramento. Of course, when you consider that Folsom is less than two hours from four world-class wine regions (Sonoma, Napa, Lodi/Clarksburg, and the Sierra Foothills) it’s not so surprising after all.

My favorite local wine bar is The Cellar, located in the heart of Old Folsom on Sutter Street. Maintaining its historic Gold Rush façade, Sutter Street is a charming stroll into yesteryear for tourists and locals alike. In addition to the three wine bars in a two-and-a-half block distance, there are taverns, restaurants, art galleries, antique and gift shops, and an old-fashioned chocolate shop. Old Folsom really is a hidden gem. You ought to come see for yourself!

The Cellar

Yup, those are beer taps on the left! For those who don’t wine.

 

When I first started frequenting The Cellar a few months ago, their wine list included the most delicious Carménère I’ve ever tasted. The Vina Maipo Vitral Carménère 2012 was full, rich, and smooth. A few days ago I ventured in for a glass of this enticing delight when, to my shock and dismay, I discovered it was no longer on the menu. I shared my angst with Drew, the ever-present and helpful server, and he assured me that the replacement wine on their updated list would not disappoint. I’m a trusting sort, and Drew has never steered me wrong, so I ordered a glass of this new wine: Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014. Once again, Drew came through! This wine is spectacular!

Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014 is made from 50% Grenache and 50% Tempranillo. Hailing from Cataluña, Spain, it is aged 25% in French oak, and 75% in stainless steel and concrete over seven months.

Celler Barcelòna was founded by winemaker Russell Smith. Having worked at such prestigious California wineries as Joseph Phelps and Flora Springs, Russell pursued a dream of making wine in Northern Spain. He purchased vineyards in the famed Montsant region, and began production in 2013. Considering how impressive was the 2014 I tasted, this is a winery worth watching for many years to come!

Here’s what I thought of it:

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Deep purple color. Aromas ripe blackberry and soft oak. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. Soft oak notes on the mid-palate mingle with soft tannins and light acidity. Long finish of dark berry, chocolate, and spice.

4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points)

Retail price: $16 on the website.

I had this wine on its own. It’s great by itself, and it would also pair very well with a variety of foods like tapas, grilled pork, or The Cellar’s amazing cheese plate.

If you find yourself in the Sacramento area and want some company for some suburban wine bar hopping, drop me a line. I’d love to show you around!

Cheers!

Regions to Grapes: Understanding the Translation – #MWWC32

I’m a planner. My family used to tease me because I would write an itinerary for family vacations. I mean, we want to make sure we get to see and do all we wanted to see and do, right? Normally, when I write a blog post, especially one as significant as a Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I like to start several weeks early, so I can take my time to ponder, refine, and polish my work.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

I am aware that not all people are like me. Some people thrive under the pressure of a deadline. They procrastinate until the bitter end, and then crank out whatever comes, and hope for the best. My son is one of those people. In high school he used to drive me insane! Up until all hours the night before a major paper was due, he produced some amazing work. My blood pressure would rise as he sat calmly reading his books, instead of writing his college application essays. Yet, he got into a great school, and always got good grades. Procrastination works for him. It does not work for me.

Nevertheless, my life has been crazy busy these past few weeks. So when I checked my email yesterday morning, and Jeff the Drunken Cyclist reminded me that entries for #MWWC32 are due Monday, my stress level rose. For this piece, I will have to channel my son, and try to crank out a worthwhile piece at the last minute! Working under the pressure of a deadline is foreign to me. So it is my hope that by writing in this unfamiliar method, I am able to adapt and produce a quality blog post. Will I be able to create a decent translation? We’ll see.

translation

As an international product, wine is interesting and confusing. In the United States, and many other New World wine producing regions, the label lists the dominant grape variety in the bottle. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo – consumers have a pretty good idea of what they are getting themselves into when they by a New World wine. This cannot always be said of European, or Old World, wines. Although some producers are starting to list the varietal on the bottle, tradition dictates that the label contains the name of the region, rather than the grape.

This difference between Old World and New World labels can cause no small amount of confusion for wine consumers. There is, one could say, a loss in translation. Many wine lovers who favor wines from the U.S. simply don’t understand European labels. This is not limited to newbies. Many experienced wine drinkers I know mistakenly believe that Bordeaux is a grape variety. It’s not. Bordeaux is perhaps the most famous wine region in France, characterized by wine blends made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Much confusion surrounds Old World wine regions. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple translation. Many famous wines from regions in Europe are known by their regional names. However, many people do not know the grape varieties from which these wines are made. Allow me to help with the translation of some of the more notable regions.

  • Barolo: An Italian wine from in the area around the city of Barolo, in the Piedmont region located in Northern Italy. Barolo is made from Nebbiolo. Pricy and age worthy, it is often known as the “Wine of Kings.”
  • Bordeaux: Perhaps the most famous wine region in the world, Bordeaux is located in southwest France. The region is bisected by the Gironde estuary. A number of different grape varieties go into these blends, but they are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wines from the left bank are typically Cabernet Sauvignon based, whereas right bank wines are predominantly Merlot.
  • Burgundy: Another famous French region, Burgundy produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Don’t fret, though; not all the wines from Burgundy are from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Burgundy is most famous for its red wines, produced from Pinot Noir. However, the region also produces spectacular white wines using Chardonnay grapes. If you’ve had a bottle of Chablis, you’ve had a Chardonnay from a sub-region of Burgundy.
  • Champagne: One of the most widely misunderstood and misused wine terms (in my opinion.) Everybody knows what Champagne is, but many don’t seem to understand what Champagne is not. California Sparkling wine is not Champagne. (Yes, there are a handful of California producers who are allowed to use the term, but that does not make them true Champagne wines.) Prosecco isn’t either. Nor is Cava. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced only in the Champagne region of France. It is typically made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
  • Chianti: Everybody knows Chianti! Those quaint straw-wrapped bottles found in Italian restaurants, often used as candle holders. Yet Chianti is so much more than kitschy decorations. Well-made Chianti is spectacular! Chianti is an Italian region in Tuscany. The wines from here are predominately made from the Sangiovese grape.
  • Rioja: From sunny Spain, Rioja is perhaps the country’s most famous wine. Located in the northeast part of Spain, Rioja is made mainly from Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes. Classifications on Rioja wines mean something, so a little study can help you find what you like. Wines labeled simply “Rioja” are young, and spend less than a year in the barrel. “Crianza” wines are aged at least two years, including one year in oak barrels. “Rioja Reserva” wines have aged three or more years, including one in oak. “Rioja Gran Reserva” wines see at least three years of age, of which two are in oak. As one might expect, the longer the aging, the higher the price.

Speaking of Tempranillo and Rioja, I recently had an opportunity to compare a local, California Tempranillo and a Rioja Crianza. Out to dinner one evening a couple of weeks ago, while perusing the wine list, the Wise Villa Winery Tempranillo caught my attention.

Wise Villa TempranilloDeep purple color in the glass. Aromas of ripe blackberry and raspberry. On the palate, juicy blackberry, dark cherry, black plum, and soft oak notes. Soft, smooth tannins with nicely balanced acidity. The long finish is dark berry and soft spice. Great on its own, and pairs nicely with a variety of foods.

Then, about a week later, I selected the Carlos Serres Rioja Crianza 2012 from the list at a favorite wine bar. The difference in styles was interesting, and a great illustration for a New World versus Old World comparison.

 

Medium purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of fresh raspberries, Bing cherry, red plum, and baking spices. The tannins are smooth, and the acidity is bright and lively. The long finish is dominated by red berry, spice, and white pepper notes. This is a great wine for sipping with a special someone, and would also pair very well with tapas or other regional foods.

There are dozens of other wine regions worth exploring, both Old World and New World. I encourage you to do some research on your own and learn your own translations.

 

Tiramisu Wine! A Review of Lucca Mourvedre 2012

Sometimes, spontaneous is the best. Hidden gems and delightful surprises await when you go with the flow and live in the moment. Planning is nice, but being adventurous and open to whatever comes along is exciting and rewarding!

Recently I found myself as a last-minute guest at a neighborhood barbecue. The only person I knew there was the one who invited me, but these were her neighbors, her friends, so I knew I’d have a good time. Indeed I did! Among the amazing people I met were Bob and Pauline, (parents of an up-and-coming winemaker who I hope to meet soon, and profile in a future blog post), and the host couple, Joe and Lorry. Joe is quite an engaging character; immediately lovable, though he’d probably bristle at my saying so. (He introduced himself to me, with a wry smile, as “your worst nightmare.” How can you not love that?) He is also a generous and attentive host. Throughout most of the evening, I never saw him without a fresh bottle of wine in hand, making the rounds and topping off everyone’s glass. Through Joe’s generosity and hospitality, I tasted a number of delicious wines that night. From values like Gnarly Head Authentic Red, to an absolutely amazing 2001 Médoc (I wish I could recall the label) both the wine and the laughter were flowing!

Lucca Mourvedre

Photo Credit: luccawinery.com

Without doubt, the most interesting and surprising wine poured that night was the Lucca Contra Costa County Mourvedre 2012. This is the wine that will forever be known, at least to us, as the “Tiramisu Wine.” The back label describes currants, dark cherries, truffles, and forest floor. While it is true that all those aromas and flavors are present, along with blackberry, black pepper, and spice, with soft, smooth tannins, what impressed us most was the finish. At first lightly cinnamon, then a hint of cocoa. Finally, after a bit of mentally scouring the sensory memory bank, it hit me. Tiramisu! The finish on this wine was tiramisu! Everyone fortunate enough to have some in their glass agreed. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and had we stuck to our original plans for that evening – a quiet dinner in – we would have missed it entirely! Three cheers for spontaneity!

Lucca Winery is located in the Central Valley town of Ripon. Dionisio Lucchesi immigrated from Italy and started farming in the Central Valley Delta, growing grapes, almonds, and apricots. In 1990, his son, Alan, took over operations at Lucchesi Family Farms, in nearby Contra Costa County, and his brother, Mark, started making wine from the family grape crop. Lucca Winery is the result of this family legacy.

Lucca Winery produces several varietal wines and blends, including Carignane, Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and of course, Mourvedre. Their wines are affordably priced, and available on their website. Not far from my hometown, Lucca Winery is now on my “must visit soon” list.

If you get your hands on some of these amazing wines, and I hope you do, I’d love to hear what you think.

Cheers!

Review: Jac Cole Mosaico Napa Valley 2015

Regular readers on my blog may have already figured out that Jac Cole is one of my favorite winemakers. Jac has an impressive resumé with experience at a number of well known wineries. He now makes wine for NakedWines.com, and everything I’ve tasted from his line has been spectacular. Jac is largely responsible for my turning in my ABC card, after tasting his magnificent Unoaked Chardonnay, and then his equally amazing Oak Fermented Chardonnay.

In the red wine category, Jac crafts a rich, decadent blend, called Mosaico. The 2015 vintage was recently released, and I was fortunate enough to receive a sample for review. This is the third vintage of Mosaico I have tasted and reviewed. The 2013 and 2014 reviews are here and here. Like the 2014 vintage, Mosaico 2015 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot.  This is a big, bold, juicy wine. With sufficient aeration, Mosacio 2015 is drinking nicely now, and has tremendous aging potential for many years to come.  Here’s what I thought of it:

Mosaico 2015

Another Mosaico vintage, another masterpiece. Jac continues to amaze!

I tasted this over two days. On day one I decanted, took a quick sniff and sip right away, and was blown away. This is a rich, decadent blend with aromas and flavors of ripe, crushed blackberry, raspberry, black cherry, and vanilla. After about an hour of air, the flavors are deeper, with white pepper and spice notes, and the tannins are already soft and smooth.

On day two, the nose is bursting with fresh cherry with soft oaky notes. The flavors are balanced with cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and a bit of cranberry, with spicy black pepper at the back. Tannins are firm, which is expected for a big, young wine, and there is sufficient acidity to keep it bright and lively. The finish is long, with dark berry, spice, black pepper, and earthy tobacco.

Pair this with a big, juicy slab of meat on the grill, sit back, and enjoy. This is a wine that is drinking nicely now, and will improve with age over the next several years.

4.5 out of 5 stars now (92 – 94 points), improving to 5 stars (95+ points) with cellar time.

MSRP: $34.99, Angel Member Price: $17.99

If this sounds like your kind of wine, you can get it exclusively at NakedWines.com. If you’re not a member, you can follow this link to receive a voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

Form and Function: Avina Wine Accessories

It only takes one or two times. You arrive at the beach, or the picnic, or the hotel, thirsty for wine. You grab the bottle and reach for the corkscrew. The corkscrew. Where’s the corkscrew? Oh, no! You forgot the corkscrew!

It’s happened to me, and I bet it’s happened to you, too. Eventually, you commit to always having a tool at hand to liberate that wine from beneath the cork. Personally, I have two corkscrews in my car (glove box and trunk,) one in my picnic ice chest, and one permanently packed in each suitcase. I have become a fervent proponent of the notion that you simply cannot have too many corkscrews!

Then there’s that rare dilemma: leftover wine. What to do? You can shove the cork back in, but there is risk of leakage. If only there was a reliable, leak-proof, compact bottle closure.

Corkscrews come in a variety of shapes and styles. Some I like, some I don’t, and some I’ve never actually tried. I’ve also used a number of bottle closures over the years, with mixed results. So I was delighted when I received an email recently from Avina Wine Accessories, inviting me to try some of their products. They even offered me a choice in sample products. I’m partial to two-stage waiters corkscrews, and have never actually used a wing-style opener. (My folks had one when I was a kid, and I liked to play with it, but back then it was usually a jet plane or spaceship!) They graciously sent me both styles!

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The first thing I noticed when opening the shipping box was the attractive, high quality packaging. Glossy, color images on the lid evoke a sense of luxurious extravagance waiting within. The lid is snug, and once removed, the corkscrew and bottle stopper were securely held in place by a form-fitting foam insert. Very impressive!

The next thing to grab my attention was the modern and fun design of the corkscrews. Both are very attractive and aesthetically appealing. The Swan Easy Grip Wing Corkscrew is a satin blue color (also available in pink) with a full cylinder body; so much more attractive than the stark, stainless steel models I’ve seen before. Then I opened the box for the waiters corkscrew. Can a corkscrew be sexy? I say, yes! The Rhino Easy Wine Waiters Corkscrew is a beaut! Sleek design with incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail; the form, fit, and finish is a sight to behold! And to back the design with the quality, all Avina Wine Accessories products come with their “You Break It, We Replace It” lifetime guarantee.

So how do they perform? I decided to try the Swan Easy Grip Wing Corkscrew ($24.99 retail) first. As I mentioned, this was my first time actually using a wing-style corkscrew to remove a cork. It took an astute observation by my dinner guest that one really shouldn’t hold the wings when inserting the cork. (Translation: “You’re doing it wrong!”) Once properly positioned in my hand, the worm smoothly entered the cork, and with a gentle pressure on the wings, the cork started to emerge, finishing with a satisfying “pop!” This corkscrew performed great! It is smooth and easy to use, and fun, too! As with most wing-style corkscrews, the top doubles as a bottle opener, too, for those occasions when you want a cold beer. And when you’re not using it to open bottles, you can use it as a jet plane!

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Dinner Guest: “Um, I don’t think you’re supposed to hold the wings.”

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That’s better!

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After that satisfying “pop!”

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Beer me!

Next, I grabbed the Rhino Easy Wine Waiters Corkscrew ($26.99 retail) and gave it a whirl. This is one of four models of waiters corkscrews offered. The serrated foil cutter blade sliced through the cap smoothly and with ease. The worm and fulcrum were flawless as they aided me in accessing the nectar trapped within the bottle. Again, if you have a crown cap to open, just flip the Rhino around and use the bottle-opener end.

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Now that I had two bottles open, it was time to try the Wine Bottle Stopper ($12.99 retail.) When you buy a corkscrew, a Bottle Stopper is included for free, but you can also purchase them separately. While these are not vacuum caps, they do seal tightly, preventing additional air exchange. They snap firmly into place with the lower clip. To put the “no leaks, no spills” claim to the test, I laid a half-full bottle of red wine on its side, over a white paper towel, for 12 hours. The Avina Wine Bottle Stopper performed as promised, without so much as a drop leaking out.

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12 hours later and not a drop!

Whether for yourself, or as a gift to the winelover in your life, you can shop the entire line of Avina Wine Accessories at their website, or at Amazon.com. For a limited time, at either site, use the code AVINA15A at checkout to receive 15% off!

Cheers!

Disclaimer: All products listed and described were submitted as samples for review. I received no other compensation, and all opinions are my own.

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